According to the Midway 2020 report conducted by Deloitte, only 20% of the surveyed manufacturers considered themselves prepared for another digital revolution.
Whilst automation has been adopted in the form of physical robots driving improvements on the production line and almost eliminating error in production, the move to digitise back-end and operational processes have been slower in adoption.
However, in the wake of a global pandemic, manufacturing companies across the board are stepping up their recovery processes with a renewed focus on future survival. Employees are now having to work remotely to execute administrative and key logistical and operational processes, resulting in a geographically dispersed virtual workforce that are not always necessarily following centralised and standardised methods.
Manufacturing companies are now adopting cloud-based applications, which very much opens the door to Robotic Process Automation. Some industry leaders have already adopted RPA with great success and are now pushing to automate more areas. For example, key time-intensive processes that are proving to be ideal candidates for automation include customer communication, procurement, inventory management and payment processing. By implementing Intelligent Automation, organisations within the manufacturing industry are able to drive significant cost reductions and increase productivity as the speed and agility of automation allows them to carry out these processes in a fraction of the time.
The specific benefits that we are seeing across the manufacturing industry currently where Intelligent Automation is gathering pace include:
Increasing operational efficiency
This is particularly important as manufacturers have begun to recognise that manual tracking of processes is no longer effective or always accurate, nor is it supporting their organisation to make smart decisions regarding production. By automating processes that rely on email communications, the end-to-end procurement process, sales, order processing and inventory control, manufacturers can attain better management and oversight whilst also ensuring improved utilisation of their highly skilled human workforce. The speed of automating these processes offers the competitive edge that manufacturers really need creating fast-paced, efficient operations.
Reducing cost and time lost from human errors
Intelligent Automation reduces costs and a huge amount of human error, a prime example of this is the Bill of Materials (BOM) which is a crucial document when it comes to production; this contains lists of raw materials and other products for new product creation. The BOM is extremely sensitive to error and, if not accurate on where what, when and how to purchase, can lead to significant commercial losses. Not only will this automation eradicate mundane tasks from human workers and lead to a significantly reduced error rate, but it can drive efficiencies in the production line whilst also increasing accountability by ensuring that stock is traceable throughout the entire lifecycle of the process. This means that manufacturers can leverage real-time, accurate data, optimised by intelligent automation, to save costs associated with production delays, inaccurate stock levels and to adequately plan production schedules, resource/labour requirements and incorporate any other anticipated costs. Ultimately, time-wasting and error-prone data entry can be a thing of the past by incorporating Intelligent Automation within critical administrative processes that affect production.
Increasing agility in the way that manufacturers operate
Consumer-demand has evolved to the point where query responses, order requirements and resolutions are required in real-time, therefore the manufacturing industry needs to illustrate its agility and ability to evolve with the needs of their customers. The automation of core functions within procurement and the supply chain will enable organisations to become much more flexible, efficient and productive. Supplier management usually comprises of manual, ad hoc processes and utilises a variety of supplier portals and internal systems/records, Vendor Management Systems (VMS), documents and email communications.
Intelligent Automation streamlines and optimises a huge proportion of this to drive operational improvements in the following areas:
- Automated emails to ensure efficient and timely communications with suppliers and customers.
- Optical Character Recognition (OCR) which is capable of reading and processing information on invoices by extracting images and converting into text – combined with RPA, this will ensure a streamline end-to-end automated invoice process which then captures and enters data from a variety of sources and completes the desired output.
- Machine Learning can aid the process of predictive modelling and forecasting to enhance capacity and inventory management.
Increasing the go-to-market speed for new products by maximising productivity across the workforce
Intelligent Automation of key Sales and Marketing processes within the sector can drive significant value, improving and accelerating go-to-market strategies. Personalisation is key for facilitating a competitive advantage, and this can be achieved in a variety of ways such as tracking individual buyer engagements with your products, leveraging the benefits of intuitive technologies; this, in turn, ensures that manufacturers can offer prospective clients with personalised, targeted and (crucially!) relevant information. By making these processes more efficient, the manufacturing industry can make better use of content and workflows to determine personas, challenges and where buyers are in their journey. Automated reporting is also key in this respect as RPA, IA and AI technologies can be applied to analyse vast datasets and provide meaningful information that can aid decision-making around production and future investments.
Increasing regulatory compliance
Intelligent Automation is extremely helpful in increasing regulatory, legislative, contractual and/or quality compliance requirements for the manufacturing industry. Instead of evaluating production outputs against compliance at the end of the manufacturing lifecycle, the sector is now discovering the many benefits associated with managing and measuring compliance at a process-level. Process-level automation means that compliance benchmarking can be achieved; corrective and preventative action(s) are no longer dealt reactively and instead can be handled through exception reporting and fine-tuning of the process throughout the entire lifecycle. What’s more, when manual processes are relied upon for audits or inspections, results are not always consistent or correlated. By using Intelligent Automation, manufacturers can standardise requirements and minimise error, ensuring that compliance requirements are embedded within production processes and subsequently better-facilitating audit processes.
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